Thanks to Hubby for the edit, and the help with the end of this chapter. You do smack talk so much better than me!
I’d just opened another can of beer – My fifth? Sixth? I didn’t care. – when the doorbell rang. I stood up, and ambled across the living room, hoping it wasn’t sales people. I didn’t feel like getting into another fight. As I passed the sofa, I clipped my knee on the coffee table.
I opened the door to find Megan standing on the threshold, her eyes wide and her cheeks flushed.
“Meg!” Way better than sales people! “Come on in, join the party.”
I teetered forward to open the door for her, and almost lost my balance. Thank fuck she didn’t see. I kicked some beer cans out of the way, and followed her down the hall.
“Kian, what’s going on?” she said, entering the living room, and staring at the mess.
“I’m celebrating.” I put my arm around her shoulder, and steered her to the couch.
“The fact my sponsors have dropped me, and the promotion in Ireland I’ve been thinking of joining said they’re not interested. Ain’t my life fucking grand?”
I sat down, kicked my feet up on the coffee table, and took a long swig of beer.
Megan looked from me to the beer cans lying about, then raked her hands through her hair. She took a deep breath and sighed. “You know, that really sucks. Bloody idiots.”
I laughed. “My sentiments exactly. Shame no one else agrees.”
“Well they’re idiots too. Wanna talk about it?”
I narrowed my eyes and tilted my head to the side. “What? No ‘you’ve fucked up’ again? No judgement?”
“You seem surprised?”
“Well, after the Johnson interview, I thought you’d firmly climbed aboard the ‘Kian is a fuck up’ bandwagon.”
Megan rubbed the back of her neck, and gazed at the ground. “Yeah, about that. I’m sorry. I reacted badly. You’re right, I should have come to you, not called Emilia.”
My heart raced and the room span. What was going on? Had hell finally frozen over? Something had to be going on for her not to be losing her shit.
“You know, this would be a lot easier if I could drink too,” she said.
I laughed and reached across to touch her belly. “Yeah, sorry about that.”
Megan shuffled away like I’d burnt her.
“Sure, yeah. Just tickled is all.”
She didn’t seem okay. Her cheeks were flushed again.
“You sure? Want me to get you a water or something?”
“How about I make us both a coffee, and you can tell me what’s going on?”
“Alright, sounds good.” I downed the rest of my beer, and followed her through to the kitchen, where she stood in the middle of the room, hands on her hips.
I stopped for a minute and checked out her ass. She’d always had a rockin’ body, but the pregnancy weight had defined her curves, and now her clothes clung to her.
Remembering the time I’d seen those curves up close made my pulse race.
Meg turned to me, her brows pulled together and I snapped back to reality.
SO not the right time for those type of thoughts. Good job I’m switching to coffee.
“Where do you keep your mugs and stuff?”
“Here, let me.” I needed a distraction. I pulled two mugs and the jar of coffee out of the cupboard, then grabbed the sugar and milk, as Megan switched the kettle on.
As she handed the sugar back to me, she peered over my shoulder, her eyes wide.
“Are those chocolate Hobnobs?”
“Yeah, you want some?”
“Do I want some? Kian, if you don’t give me that packet of biscuits right now I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”
I handed the pack to her, which she instantly tore into, and then devoured a biscuit in two bites.
We headed back through to the living room, Megan still munching on biscuits, and settled on the sofa.
“So?” she said, brushing crumbs off her top. “Ireland, huh? What happed with Ferrum?”
“Taylor, the tosser, wants to strip me of the title. Says I’m not a good representation of the company. So I quit.”
“Damn, that’s a big change. And your sponsors?”
“When they heard I’d quit Ferrum and hadn’t lined anywhere else up, they dropped me.”
“That’s harsh. But this place in Ireland is a no go?”
“Yeah, they’re not interested either. That Johnson interview’s really screwed my reputation … hell, who am I kidding. My reputation was already shaky. That was the final nail in the coffin.”
Megan took a long drink of coffee, then tuned so her body was facing mine. Our eyes met as she asked, “So now what?”
I stared at her, cheeks rosy and hazel eyes wide, her lips slightly parted.
I wanted to kiss her. SO not the time to be thinking that, either.
I turned away and drank my coffee.
What should I tell her? That my life was a fucking mess, I had no idea what to do next, and that given the chance, I’d probably screw things up with her and the baby, too.
I wanted to run. I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch a hole in the wall.
After the last time me and Meg had talked about my issues, I’d expected the cold shoulder, not her turning up at my place a week later, offering sympathy.
I peered at her over the rim of my mug, and the look on her face took my breath away. No one ever looked at me like that. Like I wasn’t some messed up mistake. I buried my head in my hands, and let out a deep breath.
“What is it, Kian?” she asked gently, prying my fingers apart.
“Remember when I came to see you last week, after you’d spoken to Emilia?”
“Yeah. I know I said sorry earlier, -”
“No, you were right. What I said then was true. I keep messing everything up, and I don’t know how to fix it. I try to make things better, but I always manage to make it worse.
It’s like I’ve got this built in self-destruct button, and when things are going well, I press it.
You know what I did last week after we fought? I went to a bar, got drunk, and hooked up with Ruby from work. I mean, who does that? Who shags another bird when they’ve got a baby on the way? Oh yeah, that’s right, The Kian Murphy. The fuck up. The guy with anger issues. The guy who can’t commit to anything serious, and when he tries, he screws it up.
I’m so fucking sick of all this. I’m so fucking sick of being me.”
Megan laced her fingers through mine, and stared at me steadily. “That isn’t you, Kian. Not the real you. The real you is the guy who sent me the Step Up DVD. The real you is the one who lets me call him at random hours because I’m worried about the baby. The real you is the one I- the one sitting here with me now, admitting he isn’t perfect.”
I squeezed her hand, as I processed her words. I swallowed hard, my heart racing and my skin tingling from her touch. She saw through The Kian Murphy, and just saw me for me.
She saw me, and wasn’t running away.
“How can I always be that guy?”
“I think by admitting you’ve got a problem you’re already taking the first step. That can’t have been easy, especially after the way I reacted last week.”
“Yeah, but what comes next? I’ve got no job, and no fucking clue what to do with my life.”
“Take some time. After the fight with Matthews, take a few months off to enjoy just being you without having to worry about training and sponsors and shit.”
I shuffled in my seat, the room getting smaller as the walls closed in around me. “Can I do that? Just take a few months off?”
“Sure, why the hell not? I mean, you’ve got the money, right?”
“Well yeah, money isn’t a problem. But I’ve always worked, or been working towards something. I’m either at the gym training for a fight, or I’m travelling the country for my sponsors. I can’t just do nothing.”
“You wouldn’t be doing nothing. You’d be working on the most important thing. YOU. You’ll be a much better fighter, father and person if you get your head sorted out.”
“Yeah, maybe. Then I’d be around more to help when the nipper’s born.”
Megan grinned, and I felt warmth spread through me. “That’d be good.”
“So you’re not pissed off with me?”
“Why? Because you’ve got problems? Kian, everyone has problems. The important thing is, you want to fix things.”
“I do. I want to be better than this. I want to be a good dad.”
“And you will be. I have faith in you.”
“Even after I slept with Ruby?”
Megan’s eyes dropped, and she turned her body away from mine. The atmosphere changed, and the warmth I’d felt just a minute ago vanished.
“I take that as a ‘no’ then?”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just. I-we … It was a shock, seeing it in the paper.”
“Yeah, Stacey showed me this morning.”
My shoulders sank. Just when I thought we were making progress, another mistake came back to bite me in the ass. “I bet she thinks I’m an arsehole, doesn’t she?”
“Actually no. I think she understands you’re dealing with a lot right now.” Megan turned to face me, the smile back.
“You know it didn’t mean anything, right? I’m not into her. It was a stupid mistake.”
“It’s okay. I know you’re not looking to get into a relationship.” Megan was still smiling, but I realised it didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Really, it’s okay. Who you sleep with is your business. You don’t have to keep apologising.”
“Yeah, but I kind of have to, don’t I? I mean, I’ve upset you. It can’t have been easy for you, with the baby and everything, seeing me with some girl.”
Megan opened her mouth, then closed it again. She sighed and ran her hand through her hair. “That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is you’re trying to do the right thing.”
I took her hands again, and pulled her closer to me. “Thank you. Thank you for not judging. Thank you for being here and listening to my shit. I promise I’m going to repay you by being the best dad I can be.”
“I know you will.” This time Megan’s smile reached her eyes. “And you can start by making me something to eat. I’m bloody starving.”
I laughed, and shook my head, amazed at how well she was taking all this. “Fancy some stir-fry and a movie?”
“Let me pick the film, and you’ve got yourself a deal.”
“Fine, as long as it’s nothing too girly,” I said, climbing to my feet and pulling her up with me.
We made our way to the kitchen, where I stir-fried some egg noodles with fresh veggies, and Chinese seasonings, even throwing in a handful of chopped cashew nuts to give it some protein.
“Damn, this is good,” Megan said, as we settled on the sofa eating our meal.
After we’d eaten, Meg convinced me to watch some chick-flick, and she snuggled down under a blanket, watching the movie. My thoughts drifted to what she’d said earlier about taking time to sort my head out. She was right. If I got myself back on track, I could be a better fighter, and a better dad. That’s all I wanted right now, to be better than I was.
I may have been about to lose my job and had little chance of signing with another promotion, but I hadn’t lost everything. If I could get my shit together, I could get back on top, and prove to everyone I wasn’t just a fuck up. I’d show them who the real Kian Murphy was.
But to do that, I’d need help. I realised Marie had been right a few weeks ago when she’d said I shouldn’t keep all my problems bottled up. I’d only scratched the surface of my issues, and already I could feel the weight lifting off my chest.
“Hey, I’ve been thinking. I should go back to therapy.”
Megan sat up and paused the movie. “If you think that will help you, it’s a great idea.”
“I do. Taking to you has really helped. I need a more productive way to vent my negative feelings.”
“Makes sense. Anything else I can do to help, just ask, okay?”
“You being here is enough.” I smiled and brushed my fingers across the back of her hand. “Alright, fill me in on what’s going on in this movie.”
Megan launched into an explanation of the film. It sounded bloody ridiculous, but it made her laugh, and seeing her eyes light up when she smiled was worth sitting through a love triangle, a scene about shoe shopping, and a sex toy party.
When the credits rolled, I yawned and stretched out my arms. “That wasn’t as bad as I expected. You want me to call you a taxi to save you driving in the dark?”
When Megan didn’t reply, I leaned over her to see she’s fallen asleep clutching the remote. She looked so peaceful curled up on my sofa that I didn’t have the heart to move her, and instead turned the telly off and crept quietly to my room.
The alcohol I’d drank earlier was still working its way out of my system, which proved to be a good thing, as I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, instead of lying awake going over everything me and Meg had talked about, and worrying about calling my therapist the following morning.
I knew it was a step I had to take, and that I’d already climbed a giant hurdle by admitting I had problems, and needed help with them, but the thought of seeing a professional scared the crap out of me. Even before I’d started training to be a fighter, I’d taught myself to show no signs of weakness. I had to be the best, and that meant staying strong (in every sense of the word).
I could lock in a Kimora in 30 seconds and break someone’s arm, but seeing a therapist scared me. How stupid was that?
Obviously, the whole show no weakness thing wasn’t working out for me, so now I had to try a different way.
I woke up the next morning fifteen minutes before my alarm was due to go off to the sound of someone in the kitchen. I threw on my boxers from the day before, and made my way through to find Megan – her hair a mess and her clothes crumpled – making coffee.
“Morning,” I said, pulling the fridge open and getting the milk out.
She turned to face me and dropped the jar off coffee. “Jesus Christ, Kian. Put some bloody clothes on!”
I smirked and took a step towards her. “Meg, come on, you’re having my baby, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”
Megan tip-toed around the broken glass and spilled coffee granules, and stood in front of me, then braced her hand on my chest.
“Go get dressed,” she said, pushing hard against me.
The simple contact caused the hairs on my arms and back of my neck to stand on end, and a jolt of electricity radiated out from where she’d touched me.
She was right, I needed to get dressed before I ended up doing something to make a weird situation even more complicated.
When I came out of the shower fifteen minutes later, Megan was sat on the couch eating some toast.
“Hope you don’t mind I made myself breakfast?”
“Nah, go ahead,” I said, sitting down next to her, and picking up my coffee that was just about warm still. “Do you want something else? I think I’ve got a few eggs in the fridge.”
“Thanks, but toast is fine. I don’t think the nipper approved of last night’s late night snack.”
“That’s what happens when you eat all of your dinner, some of mine and a whole back of biscuits.”
“What? I was hungry!”
I laughed and pinched half a slice of toast from her plate.
“You in uni later?”
“Yeah, I’ve got one lecture this afternoon.”
“Cool. Everything going okay?”
“I guess.” She shrugged and finished off her coffee.
“Wanna tell me about it?”
“You’ve got enough on your plate without my dumping my problems on you.”
“I offered, didn’t I?”
“And I appreciate it, but uni shit is not something I want to get into right now.”
“Alright. You know where I am if you do want to talk.”
“Thank you.” Megan stood up and took our breakfast things through to the kitchen. I followed her and discovered she’d already cleaned up the broken coffee jar, and was starting on the dirty dishes from the night before.
“Here, let me,” I said, taking the plate from her, and plunging it into the sink.
“You wash and I’ll dry?”
“No. Go and put your feet up or something. I can take care of this.”
“Kian, I’m not made of glass. I can handle a few plates.”
“I never said you couldn’t, but I’ve got this.”
“Fine, I’ll go freshen up or something.”
“There should be enough hot water left for a shower, if you want.”
“Erm…yeah…thanks. I think I’ll just wait until I get home, so I can change into clean clothes too.”
Megan headed back through to the lounge, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I was amazed how easily we’d fallen into a domestic routine, and aside from making her blush by coming out in my boxers, there’d been no awkward moments. Much like the morning after the night we’d slept together. It’s one of the thing I liked most about her, how laid back she was. When we weren’t butting heads over stupid miscommunication issues, Megan was the most easy-going girl I’d been around.
Pregnancy, my issues, uni. Nothing seemed to phase her, and I was glad to know I’d have someone so level-headed around when I went back to therapy.
When the washing up was done, I asked Megan if she wanted another coffee, but she said she better head home to get ready for uni, which was probably a good thing. I couldn’t put off calling my therapist any longer.
“Thanks again for everything,” I said, as we stood on the doorstep saying good-bye.
“Anytime,” she said, stepping forwards and wrapping her arms around me.
Without thinking I dropped a light kiss on her forehead. “I have one more favour to ask … will you come to the Matthews fight this weekend? It’d mean a lot to have you there.”
She took a step back, and stared up at me, tilting her head to the side, as she chewed on her bottom lip. “Of course.”
Then without another word, Megan walked to her car, and I headed inside to face the beginning of the new Kian. The one who was determined not to fuck anything else up.
I had a long chat with my therapist on the phone, and told him most of the stuff I’d opened up to Megan about the night before. He said we’d start a new arrangement at the beginning of the next month, when he had some available appointments, and booked me in for twelve weekly sessions. After that, I headed to the gym to do some weights, and talk to Davi about what I was going on.
“You’re making the right call,” he said, as we sat in his office. “I’m glad you’re getting it together, and if you need anything, all you’ve got to do is ask.”
“Thanks man. I appreciate it.”
“What are you going to do about Taylor?”
“Apologise for acting like a dick, tell him I’ll complete my contract and then quietly resign.”
“Fair enough. And your sponsors?”
“I’m going to give myself a few weeks to clear my head, and call them when the dust has settled. I’m still not totally sure what I want to do next, but I need to set things right with them, too. When they let me go, I kind of went off on one.”
We fell silent, and I could tell by the way Davi was clenching and unclenching his jaw something was bothering him.
“What is it, man? I know I’ve said I’d change before, then ended up screwing things up again, but I’m serious this time. I’ve lost enough already, I’m not risking anything else.”
“No, it’s not that. I know you’re going to do your best to straighten your life out. But I think there’s something else you should know.” Davi’s face paled. Oh fuck. What now? “Ruby has been going around telling pretty much everyone you’re together. She reckons now the news of you two hooking up is public knowledge, you don’t have to hide your relationship anymore.”
The area behind my eyes pulsated, and I felt a headache coming on. I rolled my neck, trying to expel some of the tension in my joints.
“I’ll speak to her.”
“Just be gentle, yeah? The last thing you need is her going off half-cocked because you’ve broken her heart.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, yeah. I said I’ll sort it.”
“And get your mind focused on the god damn fight. Matthews is going to wipe the floor with you in this state.”
“I am focused.” Davi raised an eyebrow. “I am. I’m not gonna let him beat me.”
I tried to speak to Ruby later when I left the gym, but she’d already gone on her lunch break, and honestly, I wanted to put it off a little longer. I’d already dealt with so much in the last twenty-four hours that I didn’t want to face the drama of how she’d react.
Instead, I headed home, then called Taylor to apologize. When everything was sorted out with him – I’m sure he was glad to know he was seeing the back of me in a few days – I called my parents and asked if we could get together for dinner after my fight.
“Are you okay love?” Mum asked.
“Yeah, I’m-” I stopped myself. It was time to stop bullshitting everyone around me. “I’ve been better, but I’m dealing with it.”
“Okay. You let me know if you need anything.”
“Just seeing you and dad will be enough. And Marie too, yeah? Ask her if she and Darren want to come.”
“I will do. We could have a nice family roast.”
“Sounds great Mum.”
I spent the rest of the day cleaning up my flat, and getting rid of all the alcohol I still had in the cupboard. If I was going to do this, I was doing it properly. No more drinking to avoid dealing with my shit. Then I decided to have an early night. My weigh-in with Matthews was the following day, and I wanted to be fully focused for the final time we faced off before our fight that weekend.
But before that, I still needed to shed some excess pounds. The time I’d spent in the gym had helped, but the six cans of beer the day before hadn’t. There was only one thing for it – a sweat bath.
I filled up the tub with scorching water and submerged myself in it for ten minutes, before covering my body with hot wet towels. After another ten minutes, I submerged myself again. An hour later I got out of the bath, that’d now gone tepid, sweating and feeling slightly light-headed.
I downed a protein shake, and headed for bed, intent on going to the weigh-in the next day with a clear head.
After fight-night, weigh-ins were my favourite part of MMA. The day before a scheduled match-up, the two competitors would meet face-to-face one final time before their fight, to make sure they'd made weight.
Originally it was just a way to ensure both fighters were falling within their category, but somewhere along the line, it turned into something more. Fans started turning up, and with pre-fight adrenaline high, but competitors aren’t allowed to lay hands on each other yet, the only way to best the other and show dominance was verbally.
I pulled into the car park of Ferrum, my pulse racing and my mouth dry. Not much had changed in the few weeks since I'd been here last, apart from maybe my head space. I knew after the fight with Matthews I was moving on, and I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.
At our fight, I was going to end Matthews, and leave no question in anyone's mind who was the true Welterweight Champion, but before then I was going to tear him down with my tongue. If there was one thing I could do well, aside from fighting, it was dish out the insults.
I headed to the locker room, and stripped down to my boxers, then pulled out my ‘lucky’ weigh-in pants from my gym bag. As your weight had to be as accurate as possible, with no unneeded additions, most fighters wore only their underwear. Some had fancy designer briefs, a few went the comedy route and wore pants with comic book characters on. I wore The Simpsons Christmas boxers, even if it was the middle of July. It’d started a few years ago when Brownie bought me a pair with a naked Homer covering his privates with mistletoe as a gag gift. As a drunken dare I agreed to wear them for my next weigh-in, and when I won the subsequent fight, they were deemed lucky. I’d been wearing them for weigh-ins ever since.
I pulled a robe on over the top, and put on a pair of flip-flops, then headed to the fight arena, where the media and fans were gathered.
As I walked down to the stage where the scales were set up, a chorus of boos and jeers rang out. My awful interview with Johnson was still in the front of everyone’s minds, and my already nefarious reputation had only gotten darker.
Fuck 'em, I thought, flipping off a fan who was yelling abuse. Cameras snapped, and I knew that little outburst would make the tabloid rags tomorrow.
Matthews was already on stage, standing to the right of the scales, a smug smile on his lips. I could tell by his posture, in his head he already had the fight won. He'd beaten me once, and reckoned doing it again would be child's play.
I'm gonna enjoy wiping that gormless grin off his face.
Taylor made the introductions, then me, him and Matthews posed for photos, mine and Matthews' fists raises.
When Matthews moved aside, I shed my robe, climbed up onto the scales and the digital counter shot up.
“Hailing from County Wicklow, Ireland and weighing in at 165 pounds, Kian Murphy.”
I stepped forward to a chorus of boos, and had to stop myself from flipping everyone off.
Matthew sauntered onto the scales, that inane smile still on his face, like the lights were on, but no one was home.
“And hailing from Newcastle upon Tyne, and weighing in at 168 pounds, Benjamin Matthews.”
The crowd cheered as Matthews stepped forwards, and raised his hands; clapping his gloves together.
With us both making weight, nothing but time was stopping us from fighting.
Twenty-three hours and forty-two minutes to go ...
Fans and media gathered around for the official announcement.
“As both competitors have made weight, tomorrow’s fight is set. It will go for five rounds, and be for the Ferrum Welterweight Championship.”
I strode towards Matthews, standing just centimetres from him. He was a few inches taller than I was, and he peered down at me.
“You see this?” I said, tapping the title belt around my waist. “You want it? You’re going to have to pry it off my cold, dead body.”
Matthews bowed his head, locked his eyes onto mine, and just smiled.
“You heard what I did to your boy Bagley, yeah? I’ve got something much more specific in mind for you.”
Still nothing, other than that ‘dead behind the eyes’ stare.
“I ain’t forgot about what you did to me last time…”
“How is the arm?” As the last word left his lips the crowd erupted. Twats.
“Yeah, it’s good, man. You know, thinking about payback and visualising what I’m gonna do to you once that bell hits really helped focus me, so I should be thanking you, fella.”
“Keep talking, Irish. We all know you’re nothing more than a media whore looking for the next big payout.”
“That so?” I said, tilting my head and waving my hand.
“You’re a whore. I ain’t here to make money, money’s great ‘n’ all, but I’m here for that feeling, the sound of flesh tearing, bone snapping. I’m here because I like to hurt people. Although, it is a bonus when they’re little bitches.”
“Oh! Look at this guy,” I pointed at him and looked to the crowd. “This guy, Mr. I’m a Psycho. Ooh. Scary! Mate, look, I’ve seen off much bigger pricks than you. Bagley lasted thirty seconds, you’ll be lucky to make fifteen.”
“Course, mate. Course. You forget you only broke his arm in a training sess’ ‘cos he called you a pussy, that’s how easy to rile up you are. He’s right, you are a pussy. And a fucking idiot. You’re nothing but a bitch-ass coward and you know it.”
My ears started ringing. Who the fuck is he to call me a coward? I clenched my fists to my sides and counted to ten.
“Wow, got nothing say, Irish?” He turned to the crowd. “See? Nothing but a little bitch.”
I grabbed his arm and yanked him around, then shoved my face into his, and whispered, “Call me what you want. The only they’ll be calling you when I’m done is dead.”